PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - As the COVID-19 vaccine conversation now turns to younger children, you may have questions on whether it's safe for your kids.
Dr. Malaika Little, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Randall Children's Hospital, wants to assure parents, there is a very intentional and deliberate process to make sure vaccines are safe for every group, including kids 5 to 11-years-old.
Pfizer says its COVID vaccine could be available to that age group by the end of October after the company gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) its data for vaccinations on kids 5 to 11 years old.
"The hope is we will be able to go even lower," Dr. Little said. "So Pfizer has enrolled kids and has been enrolling and studying these kids for quite a while in the 5 and up age. But Moderna has actually enrolled kids down to six months of age."
Dr. Little says there's been a lot of work done to get here, as trials of the vaccine in younger children are happening right now.
There are some key questions she says need to be addressed in relation to the vaccine and younger kids.
"So, things like will they have as robust an immune response, will it be effective, will they actually be protected is an important question to answer. Kids' immune systems are different. They're in development in all sorts of different ways and we know that from other vaccine trials, we know that from medications. And I think parents know that about their kids themselves, right? They respond and they're a little different every year," Dr. Little said.
"Secondly, is there other side effects? So, as you're developing as kids develop their body does change, their metabolism changes what side effects they may have need to just as importantly be studied. That's why we have lots of therapies that we do first in a lab, we next do it with a healthy group of individuals, we next do it with a broader range of individuals to learn about side effects. And really kids are sort of the last population we move to cause' we are so worried about safety in them."
What about a smaller dose for younger kids than what adults are getting in the COVID-19 vaccines?
"Part of the intentional process of testing kids now is to look at what is the best dose. What is the best dose both in terms of again effectiveness and safety," Dr. Little said. "So I believe that's all part of the trials people are looking at."
In the midst of the Delta variant surge, Dr. Little says while the vaccine isn't approved for younger children yet, as a parent it's important to be thinking about everything you can do to prevent COVID in your household.
She says kids ending up in the hospital right now are primarily from unvaccinated households.
"We are certainly seeing more kids positive for the virus, and we are seeing more kids hospitalized," Dr. Little said. "The Delta variant does seem to be affecting kids more severely and I think it's important that parents realize that this is a bit of a different game than it was six months ago, a year ago that the stakes are a bit higher."
Pfizer believes it could take several weeks for the FDA to make a decision on whether to approve a vaccine for young children.
But the FDA cautioned parents to not get their kids vaccinated before approval, noting kids are not small adults and the vaccine trials may address whether kids need a different dose than what's being used for adults.